Airmen prepare for severe weather season

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Carter
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Plans and Programs Inspections NCOIC
McConnell is entering the time of the year when the threat of severe weather, such as thunderstorms, is most common.

Thunderstorms vary in size and may include hail, high winds and lightning. However, the greatest threat from these powerful storms is a tornado.

Tornadoes appear as fast-rotating, funnel-shaped clouds that extend to the ground from thunderstorms with wind speeds capable of reaching up to 300 miles per hour. They can leave a path of damage in excess of one mile, and travel distances up to 50 miles.

Sometimes tornadoes are easily seen, usually occurring near the trailing edge of thunderstorms, while at other times they may be masked by rain or low-hanging clouds. On occasion, they can even develop with little or no warning. Below you will find useful information about tornadoes taken from the Federal Emergency Management Agency website:

· they may strike quickly, with little or no warning
· they may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel
· the average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction
· the average forward speed of a tornado is 30 miles per hour, but may vary from stationary to 70 miles per hour
· tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
· waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water
· tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months
· peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer
· tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time

If your area is placed under a severe weather advisory with the possibility of tornadoes, some useful precautions include:

· listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.
· look for approaching storms
· look for the following danger signs
o dark, often greenish sky
o large hail
o a large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
o loud roar, similar to a freight train

If you should happen to find yourself in the path of a tornado, you are instructed to seek shelter immediately.

Types of shelter
If you are in a structure, (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building) go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

If you are in a vehicle, trailer or mobile home, get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

If you are outside with no shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding and do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.

You should also never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter while watching out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries

Finally, be sure to familiarize yourself with these two important advisories associated with tornadoes:

Tornado Watch
Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Tornado Warning
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

For more information on severe weather and tornadoes. visit the FEMA home page at